-adam- on Sat, 24 Jun 2000 09:30:03 -0400 (EDT)

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Re: [PLUG] ISP Support - caution: longwinded reply

This is a great idea.

Few things to consider though:

 1) There's really very little money to be made being a straight ISP.  A
single T-1 runs somewhere around 1800$/mo.  Of course T-1's are only
run into commercially zoned spaces, so add the cost of office
space.  Consider other utilities, insurance, the need to be able to
quickly obtain replacement equipment (routers, modems, et cetera) in
the event of a failure, and other standard business fees (cost of
incorporating).  Even with a couple of thousand users you'll really only
break even (assuming you'll want to be *somewhat* competitive with
other ISP's, and assuming you'll have multiple dedicated fractional
T-1 customers).
    So you'll definitely have to offer value-added services (web
development, e-commerce sites, intranet development, co-location, network
consulting, maybe you'll want to develop some sort of specific
community-based sites supported by adverts, et cetera).

 2) You'll need several employees.  Not only system/network administrators
and site developers, but you'll also need dedicated customer support
techs.  Customers of small ISP's like the personal attention they get from
their small ISP, but increasingly they demand similar benefits offered by
the larger ISP's (weekend support hours, expanded weekday support hours,
and the like).  And, no, the network admin can't handle tech support
between admin jobs (trust me on this).

    Something you might seriously consider is a co-op.  Work ten, fifteen
hours a week tech support, web development or admin and you get free
dial-up or co-location (but not pay :).  This would keep your employee
costs down while providing those who really want to be involved the
opportunity to learn, develop skills, gain work experience, and generally
have a good time a copule of days/nights a week.  If you couldn't find
people on this list who would be interested in working in exchage for
services (which I doubt you'll have a problem) I'm certain you'd find a
slew of students who would be.

 3) Again, the cost of running an ISP is enormous.  While it might be cool
to start with a single T-1, you'll eventually want to add redundancy,
thereby doubling the monthly overhead.

    Other possible solutions for dealing with the high costs of running an
      * Run it as a non-profit.  Libertynet started this way I
believe.  In addition to the tax benefits for your org, you might be a tax
write-off for another company like Verio should they decide to provide
free service to a local non-profit organization dedicated to increasing
community awareness and knowledge of open technology (heee yeah right).
      * Apply for grants.  You might be able to obtain a grant or grants
from educational institutions, businesses, or government if you run it as
a sort of "educational opportunity"-type-of-thing.  Maybe a university
would be willing to provide some space on campus if you "employ" third
year CS/CIS/IT/IS/MIS (heh this is fun) students.  One word:  internships.
      * Get sponsorship.  Maybe companies like RedHat and IBM will provide
software, hardware or money if you're the "official RedHat ISP of
Philadelphia" or some such nonsense.

Sorry for rambling on (and I know this probably should have been
off-list), but I worked at a small ISP for over a year, have been playing
with Linux for a few years and became excited to see a discussion about my
two favorite things even appear on this list.

Count me in!  And feel free to contact me directly if you have questions
or decide to persue this idea further.

Good luck.

jsulfare wrote:

> I have seen various e-mail's about this topic.
> *** Poor ISP support for Linux users ***
> So here is my question, is anybody here interested in starting an ISP
> business dedicated to Linux user?
> I'm just looking to see if there is any interest and not looking for any
> technical questions.
> -jimS

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